Posted by randfish
Recently, Moz contributor Scott Wyden, a photographer in New Jersey, received a warning in his Google Webmaster Tools about some links that violated Google's Quality Guidelines. Many, many site owners have received warnings like this, and while some are helpful hints, many (like Scott's) include sites and links that clearly do not violate the guidelines Google's published.
Here's a screenshot of Scott's reconsideration request:
(note that the red text was added by Scott as a reminder to himself)
As founder, board member, and majority shareholder of Moz, which owns Moz.com (of which YouMoz is a part), I'm here to tell Google that Scott's link from the YouMoz post was absolutely editorial. Our content team reviews every YouMoz submission. We reject the vast majority of them. We publish only those that are of value and interest to our community. And we check every frickin' link.
Scott's link, ironically, came from this post about Building Relationships, Not Links. It's a good post with helpful information, good examples, and a message which I strongly support. I also, absolutely, support Scott's earning of a link back to his Photography SEO community and to his page listing business books for photographers (this link was recently removed from the post at Scott's request). Note that "Photography SEO community" isn't just a descriptive name, it's also the official brand name of the site Scott built. Scott linked the way I believe content creators should on the web: with descriptive anchor text that helps inform a reader what they're going to find on that page. In this case, it may overlap with keywords Scott's targeting for SEO, but I find it ridiculous to hurt usability in the name of tiptoeing around Google's potential overenforcement. That's a one-way ticket to a truly inorganic, Google-shaped web.
If Google doesn't want to count those links, that's their business (though I'd argue they're losing out on a helpful link that improves the link graph and the web overall). What's not OK is Google's misrepresentation of Moz's link as "inorganic" and "in violation of our quality guidelines" in their Webmaster Tools.
I really wish YouMoz was an outlier. Sadly, I've been seeing more and more of these frustratingly misleading warnings from Google Webmaster Tools.
Several months ago, Jen Lopez, Moz's director of community, had an email conversation with Google's Head of Webspam, Matt Cutts. Matt granted us permission to publish portions of that discussion, which you can see below:
Jen Lopez: Hey Matt,
I made the mistake of emailing you while you weren't answering outside emails for 30 days. :D I wanted to bring this up again though because we have a question going on in Q&A right now about the topic. People are worried that they can't guest post on Moz: http://moz.com/community/q/could-posting-on-youmoz-get-your-penalized-for-guest-blogging because they'll get penalized. I was curious if you'd like to jump in and respond? Or give your thoughts on the topic?
Matt Cutts: Hey, the short answer is that if a site A links to spammy sites, that can affect site A's reputation. That shouldn't be a shock--I think we've talked about the hazards of linking to bad neighborhoods for a decade or so.
That said, with the specific instance of Moz.com, for the most part it's an example of a site that does good due diligence, so on average Moz.com is linking to non-problematic sites. If Moz were to lower its quality standards then that could eventually affect Moz's reputation.
The factors that make things safer are the commonsense things you'd expect, e.g. adding a nofollow will eliminate the linking issue completely. Short of that, keyword rich anchortext is higher risk than navigational anchortext like a person or site's name, and so on."
Jen, in particular, has been a champion of high standards and non-spammy guest publishing, and I'm very appreciative to Matt for the thoughtful reply (which matches our beliefs). Her talk at SMX Sydney—Guest Blogging Isn't Dead, But Blogging Just for Links Is—and her post—Time for Guest Blogging With a Purpose—helps explain Moz's position on the subject (one I believe Google shares).
I can promise that our quality standards are only going up (you can read Keri's post on YouMoz policies to get a sense of how seriously we take our publishing), that Scott's link in particular was entirely editorial, organic, and intentional, and that we take great steps to insure that all of our authors and links are carefully vetted.
We'd love if Google's webmaster review team used the same care when reviewing and calling out links in Webmaster Tools. It would help make the web (and Google's search engine) a better place.
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